PLAYER-COACH Aaron Nell admits it will be a step into the unknown for his Swindon Wildcats side when they begin their NIHL South One campaign next month following the release of the league’s fixtures yesterday.

Not only will the Cats be cutting their teeth in a new competition, having moved to the NIHL after the disbandment of the English Premier League at the end of last season, they face two unfamiliar opponents first up.

Nell’s side open the campaign with a home match against Milton Keynes Thunder on Saturday, September 16, before rounding off the opening league weekend with a long trip to Gillingham to take on Invicta Dynamos 24 hours later.

“It’s getting exciting because we are very close to the start of the season now and it’s good to know what we have got coming up,” said Nell.

“We can start planning for all the competitions and right from the beginning, it’s going to be important to be at our best to try to have a fast start.

“We have two new teams that we are not familiar with right at the start of the season so it makes it difficult.

“We know there are going to be no easy games but Milton Keynes will be particularly tough as they have got a lot of players from the Milton Keynes Lightning team of last year.

“Their higher-end players have gone up with them to the Elite League but I think they have maybe got six or seven players from last season, so they are still going to be a very good side.

“It is going to be a difficult first game and after that we have a long trek to take on Invicta, so that whole first weekend is going to be a big challenge.

“We need to get a good pre-season programme under our belts to make sure we are ready for those first couple of league games.”

In other notable fixtures, Swindon have the luxury of a home match on Boxing Day when Basingstoke Bison visit the Link Centre before the Cats take on Peterborough Phantoms on December 29. A home game against Bracknell Bees completes the festive programme on New Year’s Day.

The Wildcats will also compete in the Autumn Trophy and the NIHL Cup competition in 2017-18, the latter starting on the second weekend of the season with a home game against Basingstoke and a road game against Telford Tigers on the Sunday.

The Autumn Trophy begins on Saturday, October 14 with a double-header weekend against Telford.

The play-offs will follow the end of the regular season on the weekend of March 10-11, when the Wildcats face Bracknell home and away.

See the Wildcats' full 2017-18 fixture list at now